Farewell to ‘Dode’ Lockhart and Chuck Blackburn

Childhood has a way of slipping by in the most painful way — through the spector of death. I came to this conclusion again after finding the name’s of two people I’ve known, listed in the obituary section of Crescent City, California’s local paper.

Brad ‘Dode’ Lockhart and I went to Del Norte High together. He was born in Dallas, Oregon March 20, 1962. Born without the ability to grow hair, Dode took all the teasing dished out to him in stride and it’s became clear he still had his sense of humor about it, judging from the obituary photo in the paper, where he’s seen wearing a shirt reading, “I’m too sexy for my hair, that’s how come it isn’t there.”

The other passing is that of Chuck Blackburn who was born July 8, 1936, in North Creek, New York and died March 13, 2018 at the age of 81. Chuck was a real renaissance man as not only was he a Del Norte High School PE teacher for over three-decades, he was also a sport announcer,  a newspaper columnist, a county supervisor and an author.

It’s truly a blessing to have known both men — even if it were only for a short period in my life.


Getting O’Gilled

“Holy shit!” Jackson yelled as he came around the blind corner.  As if in slow motion, he watched as the child flipped through the air after bouncing off the grill of his truck.

Jackson felt an awful pit well up inside himself as he raced to the child’s side – that’s when he realized the child wasn’t a child after all – but a ‘little person.’ And this little person was a full-grown man.

The man was breathing, which was a relief to Jackson and he didn’t seem to have any cuts or broken bones. And since he was in the middle of the Redwood forest, Jackson knew his cellphone would be useless.

A minute or two later, the man opened his eyes, blinking hard as if he’d been sleeping and looked around, “What the feck happened?” he spoke in a thick Irish brogue.

“I hit you,” Jackson answered. He tried to get the little man to lay still, but ignoring any possible injuries, the man sat up, crawled to his knees and stood up.

“Well, diabhal!” the man exclaimed, “First time in over 400-years.”

More than a bit confused, Jackson asked, “Wha..?”

“Supposing now you’d like the gold?”

“What the hell are you talking about?”

“Oh, don’t play coy with me, boyo. You caught me and now you get the pot of gold.”

“Mister, I think you hit your head a little too hard.”

“You’re the one that hit my head,” the little man returned. Then he walked over to the side of the road and dragged from under the ferns, a two-gallon pot of gold coins, “Here, take it – you earned it fair and square.”

Looking down, Jackson felt his heart skip-a-beat, realizing they were real. When he lifted his head again, the little man had vanished.

The Baristas’ Tale

Two sharp pops interrupted the buzz of young voices. And for a moment an awful stillness hung over the classroom.

It was my fourth day on the job as a substitute teacher. I had seven tours of duty in the Marines between Iraq and Afghanistan and I recognized the sound before it even registered in the children’s minds.

Seconds passed. Two more bursts of semi-automatic gunfire, this time louder.

Looking at the youngsters, some whose name I had yet to memorize, I knew their terror.  I was also terrified, because a lock-blade knife was all I had and not the M-4 or 1911 I’d been packing two-months before.

Seconds passed. Another pop, pop…louder…closer.

“Okay, let’s go into lock-down mode like you’ve practiced. I’ll close the blinds as you push your desks in front of the door. Hurry!”

Seconds passed. Two more pops…even closer and louder.

“Now, tip those two tables over on their sides and lay down behind them.”

Seconds passed. More gunfire, this time accompanied by the jangle of spent casings.

Sitting in the corner, I wedged myself between the wall, under the flag, and against the door. Looking down, I thought, “What a day to wear dress shoes,” as I longed for something with more grip.

Seconds passed. One more pop.

Planning, it was the core of my being the last eight-years and I already had an ‘actionable’ one working. The shooter would either have to blast his way through the door or smash open the small window above and to the left of the door handle.

Suddenly the glass shattered and an arm in black with a black-gloved hand, the pointer finger’s tip removed, reached in. As the shooter touched the handle, I pounced; combat mode, where nothing but survival matters.

Grabbing the gloved hand, I twisted it forward, rotating the arm through the small window. I cranked until the shoulder joint gave, I jerked up and in, twisting even more; three, four, five times.

Screaming, all the screaming. I couldn’t tell if it was the children, the shooter or me.

As I felt the arm go limp, I pulled out my flip-blade knife, the one I carried the last two-tours in the Helmand Provence, and flicked it open. I proceeded to hack at the attackers arm and shoulder.

Blood gushed from the limb, through the broken window, and flowed down the wooden door. I could feel my hand slip from time to time, sliding down the blade, as the knife struck bone.

Reaching through the window, I thrust my blade into the shooters’ back and neck repeatedly. I stopped at the sound of heavy industrial plastic rattling across the linoleum floor.

The arm, body still attached, remained wedged, unmoving in the window’s frame; threat resolved.  Minutes later, police rushed through the classroom door, hustling us, hands in the air, out the front of the school, me to an ambulance.

At the hospital, a surgeon worked on my hand, calling me a hero. “I’m no hero,” I argued.

For a week, I couldn’t get away from the label. The entire world was there the day I was awarded a plaque and a medal for having taken down an armed shooter ‘with nothing more than a pocket knife,’ as one news reporter put it.

Hero, that’s what they called me – until the day I was quietly summoned to the district office and unceremoniously fired for violating policy. You see, in a ‘gun-free zone,’ not even a folding knife’s permissible.

“Here’s your coffee, ma’am,” he said, handing me the cup. Then he chuckled, “I realized afterwards I should’ve used the scissors from the desk.”

Essense of Tea and Ash

Mr. Saito sat quietly in his apartment sipping tea, folding pieces of paper into shapes and figures. It was more than a hobby; it was a way of life that had sustained him following the Pacific War, better known as World War II.

A sharp rapping at his door broke the silence. There he found an official-looking man in his 40s, dressed in a two-piece suit, a lined-trench coat and expensive fedora.

“Mr. Saito, I’m Detective Sergeant Takahashi. may I come in and ask you a few questions?”

“Hai,” the old man smiled as he opened the door all the way. “What is this about?”

“I’m investigating the disappearance of Ai Sato and Ikki Suzuki and I’ve been told that you were friend’s with both.”

“Yes. Anything to help. Please sit, have some tea.”

Takahashi slipped off his shoes, laid his coat and hat on the nearby stool before taking a seat at the low table that occupied the center of the room. It gave him time to look around the old man’s place, learning more about him.

He could hear Mr. Saito moving about the kitchen, fetching hot water for the tea, which Takahashi was certain would be served formally. The detective sergeant couldn’t help but notice the intricately folded pieces of paper arranged neatly about the table.

Mr. Saito came in with a small tīpotto and set it over the small tīkyandoru, designed for keeping the water in the teapot warm. Takahashi knew better than to be impatient with the old man as he masterfully brewed the tea, serving it to his guest.

“So, what would you like to know about Ikki and Ai?” Mr. Saito asked after the detective sergeant took his first sip.

Continuing to be formally polite, Takahashi first complimented the tea-server then the tea, before asking, “When was the last time you saw either one of them?”

“I think ten days ago, but I could be wrong. Time runs together for me.”

“So, you fold paper to pass the time?”

“Hai, origami.”

“I think I’ve seen your work in the home of both victims.”

“Yes, you did. Would you like to see how it’s done?”

“Gladly!” Takahashi exclaimed, knowing that the more comfortable Mr. Saito became, the more he might talk and the better the resulting interview would be to his case.

Gently, Mr. Saito withdrew a single sheet of over-sized stiffened rice paper from a lidded-wooden box next to the table and began by following it in half, “The secret is to capture the essence of the person as the folding takes place.”

Before he could respond to the word ‘person,’ Detective Sergeant Takahashi found himself tucked between folds. And when finished, Mr. Saito, a practicing Majo, touched the perfectly plaited figure to the flame of the tīkyandoru and watched as it turned to ash.

Playing Fetch

Never have I seen so many people fearful to help an animal in distress. Yeah, so the animal is 15-hundred pounds, around 15 hands high and scared shitless, but that doesn’t mean much if you use common sense.

It began with the sound of metal grating on asphalt. Not like a bumper might have dropped off a truck, but something that came and went intermittently.

Stepping out on my front porch, I saw a horse dash by, closely followed by a metal garden chair tangled in its rein. It was obvious that the noise the chair made had the beast spooked and that it had done its best to escape whatever it perceived as stocking it.

Fortunately, I was dress, shoes, pants and shirt, so I trotted after the horse in the hope that it might stop long enough that I could get in front of it. It took me till the end of the block to do so.

Once the horse saw me, she came to a halt and stood there as if deciding what to do. I stayed back, talking and cooing to her to calm her down.

She started to run by me, but I reached out and grabbed the chair, which sent me sprawling on the road. But I hung on and with my 200-pound plus frame, the weight became to intense for the ol’ girl and she came to a stand-still.

From there I was able to gather hold of the reins, cooing and talking my way up to her bridle. Before I knew it, a woman came driving down the road in a truck, towing a horse trailer.

It was easy to tell that the horse knew this woman and was happy to see her as she got out of the truck. I didn’t get her nor the horses name, but I got every name of those people up and down the street that stood there watching and refused to help.

The West isn’t what it once was in rural Nevada. Rant concluded.

A Boat for the Ferryman

When the old guy, dressed in black clothes and hat, carrying a walking-stick, entered the ‘Yacht Lot,’ Silvio ignored him because he could tell the man had no money.

Silvio even tried dodging him when he turned and began walking in the salesman’s direction, but inexplicably he found the old man standing at his side anyway. Taller than Silvio, he gazed over a once broken and severely crooked nose and said, “I need a boat.”

“Anything specific, Mister…?”

“Kharun,” he answered. “Your biggest, one that can carry large numbers of people.”

“A pontoon?”

“More elegant.”

Silvio walked Mr. Kharun over to the largest boat on display. “Like this?”

“Yes. Do you take gold?”

“I guess we take gold.


Mr. Kharun handed Silvio two gold coins, “Those are for you – the rest is on your desk. Until we meet again — and we will.”

Silvio turned to look in that direction, then quickly turned back, but by then Mr. Kharun had disappeared – and so had the multimillion dollar boat. All that remained was a fog-like wisp of smoke and the odor of cedar oil and strong wine.

Family, Dogs and Beer

My Mom and brother visited me last night as I dreamed. And boy, did they ever look swell.

Mom was in her late 20’s or early thirties, legs curled under her as she sat in a favorite chair, reading an ‘Agatha Christie’ novel. She asked me to go to the basement and get us a couple of beers.

“But Mom,” I complained, “you aren’t supposed to drink!”

“I’m cured of that since coming here,” she smiled, knowing she’d had the argument won before I even opened my mouth.

So I headed down stairs. But before I could get to the steps, I had to dodge every dog she’d had as a child, that we had as a child and every dog Adam and I had as an adult. And while it was joy to see them, they were really overjoyed to see me.

Finally, I made it to the basement, where there were lots of knickknacks, banana boxes with papers and photos, and mementos of all sort. But I was on a mission: get the beer Mom sent me down there for.

A 20-something Adam came though the side door, dressed in perfectly pleated khaki pants, a cream-color dress shirt, brown tie, and a royal blue weather-proof jacket. He smiled, “What’cha looking for Tom?”

“Mom sent me down here for beer.”

“Over there in the fridge,” Adam pointed as he sprinted up stairs.

With three bottles of beer in hand I started up after him…but I awoke before reaching the top landing. I was so looking forward to sitting on the floor in front of Mom’s chair like I did as a kid, talking, laughing and possibly crying, too.

Reflecting back on this dream, I must amend my opening statement – it is not they who were the visitors. No, it was I, visiting them.